After a shorter dune ride on Monday, the real riding got underway today at Dakar. Joan Barreda was the guy to beat yesterday, on a flat-out WRC-style stage; today, he ended up falling down the standings when the proper race kicked off, with a 553-km stage.
He did open the course for the whole stage, although he was following car tracks, but did not end up with the best time.
Instead, Bam Bam’s Honda factory squad teammate Ricky Brabec ended up battling for the lead with KTM’s Matthias Walkner (last year’s champion). Eventually, Walkner prevailed, with Brabec finishing in second and Barreda in third. Toby Price (KTM) was fourth and Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) was fifth.
Though it’s early going, we’re already seeing some drop-outs; even yesterday’s supposedly easy stage saw a couple of experienced riders pack it in. Today’s widely varied terrain – big elevation changes, beaches, hard-packed dirt, sand, and almost whatever else you could imagine – took its own toll.
Several of the top racers are riding injured this year; Laia Sanz (KTM), long the top female rider, almost skipped the rally due to illness, and has only been training a month ahead of the start. She lost a huge chunk of time today, and that’s not a good way to start the race off. Paulo Goncalves (Honda), who missed last year’s race due to injury, is supposedly struggling with some sort of health problem, if you can believe the Internet rumour. Toby Price, probably the fastest rally raid rider in the world right now, broke his wrist in the weeks before Dakar. Franco Caimi, one of the fastest Yamahas last year, is dealing with the aftermath of a recent operation on his leg.
One interesting name to watch this year: Supercross star Andrew Short is back for his second Dakar, racing for Husqvarna. He pulled off a ninth place today, and has the potential to move even further up. Also worth watching: Lorenzo Santolino, of the Sherco factory team. The Sherco squad are perpetually underfunded overachievers; Santolino is currently sitting 14th overall, although, alas, with a five-minute penalty. Such are the costs of the exuberance of youth. But, if Santolino keeps it up, he could be the next great working-class hero of Dakar, following in a long line of Sherco-mounted riders who punched far above their weight.
Stage 2 results
- Matthias Walkner, KTM
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:00:22
- Joan Barreda, Honda, + 00:01:41
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:03:06
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:03:24
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:06:03
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:09:05
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:09:59
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:12:25
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo, Honda, + 00:13:43
Overall Top 10
- Joan Barreda, Honda,
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:01:31
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:01:33
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:03:17
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:04:33
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:07:18
- Adrian Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:10:19
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:12:18′
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo, Honda, + 00:17:24
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:17:37